If you regularly experience menstrual pain, tender breasts, lethargy, an irregular cycle, acne or other typical feminine complaints on a monthly basis, then you’re potentially suffering from a female hormone imbalance. In this blog you’ll learn more about female hormones, how an imbalance in female hormones can arise, what impact this can have on your general health and wellbeing, and how you can actively prevent a female hormone imbalance in an entirely natural way.
The causes of female hormone imbalance
Hormones have a significant impact on your general health and wellbeing, and even a minor imbalance can result in a variety of unpleasant complaints (please refer to the following section for a list of female hormonal imbalance symptoms).
A female hormone imbalance is usually the result of a deeper root cause. Common factors that may negatively affect female hormonal balance include:
- Tungsten (from lamps, TV sets and tablets): this can effect your sleep cycle and in turn disrupt hormone balance (Wurtman, 1975).
- Lifestyle: many women spend a large proportion of their day sitting, which can impact hormone balance (e.g. Ay et al., 2003).
- Diet: xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens (artificial and natural oestrogens found in food products) mimic your body's oestrogen and thus influence hormonal balance (Ibarreta et al., 2001).
- Pregnancy and breast-feeding: women tend to have children at a later age nowadays and typically breastfeed for a much shorter period of time, meaning that exposure to natural oestrogen is significantly reduced (Paganiotopoulou et al., 1990).
Numerous statistics confirm that more women of childbearing age are now suffering from hormone imbalance (and all of the associated complaints) than ever before. Indeed, a 2011 study revealed that approximately 50 percent of Dutch women of childbearing age currently suffer (or have at some point suffered) from excessive bleeding during menstruation. Related complaints include abdominal pain, headaches or migraines, mood swings and periods that last longer than 5 days (Hologic Benelux/NovaSura, 2011). In addition, women between the ages of 35 and 45 frequently experience symptoms related to the perimenopause - the period that directly precedes the menopause and can sometimes last as long as 5 to 8 years. Although classic menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes) are often not present, fluctuations in hormone levels still occur. Whilst oestrogen levels remain constant, progesterone levels begin to drop, resulting in excessive levels of oestrogen – a condition known as oestrogen dominance.
There are no hard statistics on oestrogen dominance, however, many women in this age group experience symptoms (such as an irregular menstrual cycle, PMS, weight gain, migraines and fluid retention), suggesting that up to half of all women in the perimenopause or those approaching this stage of life are potentially suffering from excessive oestrogen within the body. It’s particularly striking that oestrogen dominance occurs mostly in women from Western countries, whilst those from Asian countries remain largely unaffected. This might partly be attributed to the Asian diet, which includes foods that contain oestrogen- and progesterone-like substances that naturally regulate hormone levels (Miles, 2003).
Symptoms of a female hormone imbalance
Oestrogen and progesterone are the most important female hormones, so it’s essential that you maintain these in the correct balance. Symptoms of a female hormone imbalance can include:
- Uneven skin (e.g. oily or dry skin, acne, cellulite, fluid retention)
- Dull hair
- Headaches or migraines
- Fertility problems (e.g. no ovulation, PCOS)
- Menstrual problems (e.g. irregular menstruation, prolonged menstruation, heavy periods, menstrual cramps, PMS, painful breasts)
- Decreased libido (e.g. no sex drive, vaginal dryness)
- Depression (including irritability, mood swings, lethargy)
- Weight gain
How to treat a female hormone imbalance
Despite the numerous (and sometimes seemingly unavoidable factors) that may trigger an imbalance in female hormones, there are a number of things that you can do to naturally prevent or reduce such an imbalance:
- Maintain a regular sleep pattern. Don’t watch TV or use your tablet or phone shortly before retiring to bed, and try to obtain a minimum of 8 hour’s sleep per night.
- Enjoy half an hour of intensive exercise per day. If you spend a large proportion of your sitting day behind a desk, then stand up regularly and move around or take an occasional walk.
- Reduce your intake of processed food products as much as possible. Only consume products such as tofu, soy milk and soy yogurt (which contain phytoestrogens) in moderation or avoid them altogether.
You may additionally incorporate two powerful superfoods that might help to combat and prevent hormonal imbalance into your daily diet:
- Maca: maca powder is an extremely versatile superfood made from a Peruvian root vegetable that's often referred to as the 'aphrodisiac of the Andes.’ A renowned adaptogen, maca has a balancing and regulatory effect within the body and in particular on your hormone levels, making it an ideal superfood for the treatment and prevention of hormonal imbalance (Ley, 2003).
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha powder is also known as Indian ginseng or Withania Somnifera and commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. It contains extremely powerful antioxidants.
Both maca and ashwaganda are adaptogens, meaning that they have a regulatory and balancing effect, regardless of the type of hormone imbalance you happen to be suffering from. And whilst maca and ashwagandha powder might not always prevent hormonal imbalances entirely, they can certainly help to reduce the symptoms and promote healthy hormone balance in general.
How to use maca and ashwagandha powder
Maca powder boasts a slightly sweet flavour with just a hint of maple syrup and butterscotch, and may be enjoyed on a daily basis. This hormone regulating superfood is particularly delicious in smoothies, nut milks and juices, and utterly irresistible in combination with raw organic cacao powder. If you consume maca powder on a daily basis, it’s recommended that you abstain for one week every month, as this improves and intensifies its effects. Stir to 1 to 2 tablespoons (8 to 16 grams) of maca powder daily into your favourite drink. Always increase your maca intake gradually to allow your body time to slowly adjust.
Ashwagandha possess a bittersweet flavour and is typically supplied in a powder form that can be stirred directly into green smoothies, shakes or juices. 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder per day is already enough to help prevent female hormone imbalance.
 Wurtman, Richard J. “The effects of light on the human body.” Scientific American 233.1 (1975): 68-77.
 Ay, Alev, and Merih Yurtkuran. “Evaluation of hormonal response and ultrasonic changes in the heel bone by aquatic exercise in sedentary postmenopausal women.” American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation 82.12 (2003): 942-949.
 Ibarreta, Dolores, Andreas Daxenberger, and Heinrich HD Meyer. “Possible health impact of phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens in food.” Apmis 109.S103 (2001): S402-S425.
 Panagiotopoulou, Kelly, et al. “Maternal age, parity, and pregnancy oestrogens.” Cancer Causes & Control 1.2 (1990): 119-124.
 Hologic Benelux/NovaSura: “Almost half of all Dutch women suffer from excessive menstrual bleeding”. Press Release, 9th May 2011.
 Miles J. “Japanese diet fights menopause.” AAP. 14 October 2003.
 Ley, Beth M. Maca!: Adaptogen and Hormonal Regulator. Bl Publications, 2003.
 Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa & Michael Tierra. “Ayurvedic Herbs, The Way Of” Lotus Press, 2008